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IDABEL, Okla. — The FBI is investigating a trio of McCurtain County, Oklahoma officials after a local newspaper accused them of making death threats against journalists and comments about lynching Black people.

Last week, the McCurtain Gazette-News published a report that detailed how McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, his investigator Alicia Manning, and District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings were recorded having an unplanned conversation after a March 6 Board of Commissioners meeting.

The discussion allegedly involved the trio discussing a lawsuit that McCurtain Gazette-News journalist Bruce Willingham had filed months prior against the Sheriff’s Office, Manning and the Board of Commissioners.


all four audio clips from McCurtain County Commissioners Meeting. we need to stomp out this corruption before they get more power. #oklahoma

? original sound – Sarah

The recording, which Willingham says he turned over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, allegedly depicts Manning saying she was worried about taking packages over to a shipping office and possibly running into the journalist, Willingham.

“Oh, you’re talking about you can’t control yourself?” Commissioner Jennings allegedly responded.

“Yeah, I ain’t worried about what he’s gonna do to me, Manning replied. “I’m worried about what I might do to him. My papaw would have whipped his ass, would have wiped him and used him for toilet paper … if my daddy hadn’t been run over by a vehicle, he would have been down there.”

“But you can’t do that anymore”

The trio continued the conversation by discussing a scenario in which they killed the journalist and buried his body.

“I know where two big, deep holes are here if you ever need them,” Jennings allegedly said.  The Sheriff chimed in, saying he has an excavator they could use for the job.

“Well these are already pre-dug,” Jennings allegedly responded.

McCurtain County District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings. (Campaign photo)

According to Willingham, who is both the journalist who broke the story and the target of the trio’s comments, the recording captured them also making racist comments about Black people.

When discussing other potential candidates for office, the trio complained about sheriffs no longer being able to lynch Black people.

“They don’t have a goddamn clue what they’re getting into,” Commissioner Jennings said. “Not this day and age. I’m going to tell you something — if it was back in the day, when Alan Marston would take a damned Black guy and whoop their (expletive) and throw them in the cell, I’d run for (expletive) sheriff.”

“Yeah, it’s not like that no more,” Sheriff Clardy allegedly responded.

“Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with damned rope,” Jennings said. “But you can’t do that anymore. They’ve got more rights than we’ve got.”

McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy (Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association)

The trio also joked about a deceased burn victim, comparing her to barbeque.

The recording’s release comes in a state known as the deadliest for police killings and for underreported killings of civilians by police, according to a peer-reviewed study from the Lancet. Rural law enforcement officers are often not investigated, charged or convicted for going outside the law.

For a link to the full transcribed recordings in a google document, click here.

McCurtain County officials under federal investigation

On Sunday, Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt called for the McCurtain County officials’ resignation, KTUL reported.

“I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County,” Stitt said. “There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office. I will not stand idly by while this takes place.”

“In light of these events, I am calling for the immediate resignation of McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix,” Stitt added.

“I was completely appalled and frightened, quite frankly,” journalist Willingham said about discovering the recording, according to News 9.

To listen to three hours of recording via a QR code, click here.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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1 Comment

  1. Has anyone investigated the possible validity of Commissioner Jennings’ claim, that the old sheriff Alan Marston used to assault black people and lock them up? Were there ever any reports filed, or at least people that will be interviewed to attest to the abuse? Also the allegations of LYNCHING? PLEASE INVESTIGATE!

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